Wales's Six Nations resurgence against Ireland defers debate over Rob Howley's tactical rigidity

Bob Baker
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Wales v Ireland - RBS Six Nations
George North's tries helped Wales to a 22-9 win over Ireland on Friday (Source: Getty)

In the build-up to Friday's fixture in Cardiff, when Wales overcame Ireland 22-9, their former flanker Martyn Williams pointed to the "stubborn" management team as a factor in explaining their patchy form of late.

Coaches are often caught in a dilemma between whether to stick with the status quo or delve deeper into the squad to include players who, although they may possess great talent, have not had the opportunity to prove themselves.

The dilemma becomes even more troublesome for a management team under pressure and in dire need of a robust performance to restore confidence.

Read more: England determined to make history in Ireland

It is easy to throw on the youngsters when the team is 40 points ahead and making light work of opposition week in, week out. It is much harder when the levels of performance have been in decline – itself forming a perfectly vicious circle.

The problem not only affects the desire to make bold changes in personnel, but also to rearrange those players already on the field of play, exemplified in this case by the bone-headed insistence on not playing Leigh Halfpenny in any position other than full-back.

Head coach Rob Howley decided to give his stuttering squad the opportunity to redeem themselves in the positions with which they were most familiar on Friday evening.

Given the intensity of performance and scoreline at the final whistle, the argument that the team sheet ought to be re-ordered comes into some trouble.

In addition, the performances of George North, Halfpenny and veteran centre Jamie Roberts, who ended up on the score-sheet having crowbarred his way across the try-line, will have done little to encourage management to move away from their "stick to what you know" approach to team selection.

Howley and Co will feel that their selections were justified, the players will mentally be a world away from where they were a fortnight ago and the Welsh players challenging the old faithful for a starting berth will have had the can of opportunity kicked just that little bit further down the road.

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